The nickname Swaggerville has not been heard much in the leadup to the Grey Cup game.
But the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defence, which adopted the name as a sign of their skill and determination to stuff every offence in the CFL, says Swaggerville is alive and well inside their locker-room, even if they don’t shout it out to the world any more.
”Oh yeah, it still lives, it’s just something we don’t talk about publicly any more,” cornerback Jovon Johnson said Thursday. ”We just let our play speak for itself.”
Any hope the underdog Bombers have of upsetting the B.C. Lions in the Grey Cup game at BC Place on Sunday will likely rest on the defence’s ability to stop Lions quarterback Travis Lulay and star receivers Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce.
Winnipeg certainly had the defensive numbers to crow about this season, leading the league in 12 categories, including 55 sacks and 25 interceptions.
When the team that went 4-14 in 2010 started this season 7-1, the name Swaggerville was on everyone’s lips as a rallying call. But it faded away as the Bombers went 3-7 down the stretch.
Johnson said the nickname actually dates to 2009, but didn’t become public until the team emerged as a winner. Then it was put on mute.
“It became somewhat of a distraction,” said Johnson. “It was all fun when it started.
“But after a while, with all the attention to it, all the other teams took notice and they got mad and it was just giving everybody extra motivation to play against us.”
Among other bests, the Bombers allowed their opponents the lowest average yards of offence per game at 301.1, the fewest yards per pass at 7.1, the fewest passing yards per game at 223.1 and lowest percentage of pass completions at 56.7 per cent.
Winnpeg’s defence starts with the line, where six-foot-eight Doug Brown crowds the middle so that rush ends Odell Willis and Kenny Mainor can chase down quarterbacks. Willis tied with Hamilton’s Justin Hickman for the CFL sacks lead with 13 while Mainor had eight.
“They get pressure on the quarterback and that allows us to do what we do on the back end,” added Johnson. “It’s hand in hand. We help them get sacks and they help us get picks. We’ve got the perfect blend of defence.”
Sharing the spotlight is the secondary, with Johnson, Jonathan Hefney, Alex Suber and Deon Beasley along with safety Ian Logan. They form the league’s most respected unit.